Thiago Alcantara’s sublime long-range strike set Liverpool on their way to a 2-0 Champions League win over Porto at Anfield.
The Reds had already qualified as Group B winners with two matches to spare, so teenager Tyler Morton made his Champions League debut as Jurgen Klopp rung the changes.
Liverpool maintained their perfect record in Europe this season despite being without key men, Thiago scoring his first goal of the season in style with a magnificent second-half finish.
Mohamed Salah added a second as Porto were made to pay for missed opportunities, leaving them facing a decisive final group match against Atletico Madrid in the battle for a place in the round of 16 along with Liverpool.
Porto should have had an early lead when Otavio somehow failed to hit the target with the goal gaping after Luis Diaz showed great pace to burst away and unselfishly set him up.
The Primeira Liga leaders had a let-off when goalkeeper Diogo Costa’s poor attempted clearance struck Sadio Mane on the head and fell nicely for Salah, but the prolific forward could not apply the finish.
Porto lost captain Pepe to an injury before Mane had a goal disallowed for offside in a first half that saw Sergio Conceicao’s side pose a threat without having a cutting edge.
Mateus Uribe almost capitalised on slack Reds defending when he spun sharply in the penalty area and drilled a right-foot shot narrowly wide as Porto continued to probe after the break.
Thiago made them pay for their profligacy seven minutes into second half, firing into the bottom-right corner from 25 yards out with a stunning first-time drive after Porto failed to clear an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain free-kick.
Takumi Minamino had a goal ruled out for offside, but Salah doubled Liverpool’s lead when he took a pass from Jordan Henderson and surged inside before finding the bottom-right corner with his left foot to take his tally for the season to 17.
What does it mean? Missed opportunity for Porto
Porto remain second in the group after Milan beat Atletico Madrid 1-0, so they will go into a home showdown with the LaLiga champions in a fortnight with their fate in their own hands. Milan and Atletico are just a point behind Porto.
Klopp had the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Fabinho on the bench for this victory and he will no doubt rotate once again for the Reds’ final group game.
Thiago’s touch of class
Spain international Thiago has not hit the heights since arriving on Merseyside from Bayern Munich, but he showed his class with a sweet finish to open the scoring with his first Champions League goal for the club.
The playmaker appears to have put injury problems behind him and there should be plenty more to come.
Taremi fails to fire
It was a frustrating evening for Porto striker Mehdi Taremi, who failed to hit the target with both of his two attempts before being hauled off after 64 minutes.
Key Opta Facts
- Liverpool have won their first five Champions League group-stage games for the first time, scoring 15 goals. Only in 2017-18 have the Reds scored more goals at this stage in the competition (16).
- Mohammed Salah has scored six goals in this season’s Champions League group stage, the joint most any Liverpool player has scored in a single group stage, equalling Roberto Firmino’s six goals in 2017-18.
- Three of Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara’s nine goals in the Champions League have been against Porto. This was his first goal in the competition since April 2018 when he scored for Bayern Munich in a 2-1 win against Sevilla.
- Liverpool have scored more goals from outside the box in this season’s Champions League than any other side (5), with all five goals coming from different players: Jordan Henderson, Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Thiago.
Liverpool will seek to wrap up a flawless group phase next month when they head to a Milan side who can still qualify, while Porto and Atletico Madrid will be vying to make sure they deny the Italians and secure their own spot in the last 16.